Rabies cases are on the rise in 2015, and this includes positive cases in Texas and Colorado. Wildlife and domesticated animals are susceptible to rabies; it can be transmitted from one species to another primarily through virus-containing saliva in a bite.
The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) routinely accepts domestic animals, exotic/wildlife species and small rodents when rabies is in the differential diagnosis. The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) performs rabies testing for the State of Texas; TVMDL handles proper submission to DSHS for testing. The actual sample required for rabies testing is anatomically specific, and making use of TVMDL for sample collection helps ensure a reliable test.
It is suggested to send the entire head to TVMDL if further testing will be considered. This will ensure that if a DSHS rabies submission is negative, TVMDL has the appropriate sample to immediately begin diagnostic testing to determine the cause of the neurological signs.
Choose to send the sample to TVMDL:
- Download the proper submission form at tvmdl.tamu.edu
- Send the entire head for brain removal. It is important you do not freeze the sample, but submit chilled with an ice pack.
- Field removal of the brain is not advised because often it can render the sample unsatisfactory for testing.
- DSHS suggests only sending the head unless shipping a bat or small rodent. TVMDL can remove the necessary brain sample from either a whole carcass or head, and then forward to DSHS for rabies testing.
- For $27, TVMDL will remove the proper brain sample, ship to DSHS and hold the remainder of the brain until rabies is confirmed or reported negative. *Rabies testing by DSHS is free.
- If positive, TVMDL’s brain removal charge covers proper disposal.
- If negative, TVMDL has retained fixed tissues and fresh tissues with which to conduct further testing.
Often, bats are sent to TVMDL for rabies testing. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, all dead, sick or easily captured bats should be rabies tested if there is any question that exposure to people or domesticated animals has occurred. We appreciate the public contributing to the State’s rabies surveillance; moving forward TVMDL has a few tips for capturing and shipping a bat to the lab.
- When attempting capture, avoid damaging the bat’s head.
- Bats should be captured/collected in a way that avoids contact with the bat.
- Find a small container such as a box or a large can, and a piece of cardboard large enough to cover the opening in the container.
- Put on leather work gloves. Place the container over the bat. Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
- Tape the cardboard to the container, securing the bat inside.
- Contact your local animal health department to have the bat euthanized following acceptable methods.
Complete information on shipping suspected rabies samples is available at tvmdl.tamu.edu/rabiesandprimates/. It is important you do not freeze the sample but submit chilled with an ice pack.
If you have questions concerning rabies testing, contact the Texas Department of State Health Services. For information on shipping rabies samples to TVMDL, contact one of our two full service labs: College Station at 1.888.646.5623 or Amarillo at 1.888.646.5624.